Virtual Skinny: Who Run The World?


WOD (Word of the Day): Artificial intelligence is an area of computer science that focuses on creating ‘intelligent’ computers that have human-like reactions. Yup, just like you see in the movies. 



When You Need to Diversify …

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) dropped a discrimination lawsuit against data-mining startup Palantir Technologies. Fun Fact: Palantir’s software helped track down Osama bin Laden right before the U.S. took him out. #TheMoreYouKnow 

When You Need to Know More …

Turns out that the DOL found that Palantir has been turning away Asian applicants from engineering gigs in droves. The agency says Asian applicants were ‘routinely’ weeded out during initial stages (i.e., résumé screening and telephone interview). #PlotTwist 

When This Isn’t What You’re Used To …  

Cisco exec Barry Gee says discrimination cases involving Asians in Silicon Valley isn’t the typical storyline (these cases usually involve black and Hispanic applicants) though he admits Asians do get shut out of management roles. 

When Things Are Unclear …

So far, specific numbers to back up the DOL’s allegations are unclear. In the meantime, Palantir is denying any wrongdoing. And, the company should hope things are on the up and up because any findings of wrongdoing could cancel its federal contracts worth US $340 millie.


When You Want to See Results …

The larger tech industry continues to struggle with diversity across the board (underrepresented minorities, women, etc). The industry’s taking a page from the National Football League’s (NFL) playbook. Tech and Internet companies are applying the ‘Rooney Rule’ to help up their diversity numbers. How does it work? Companies like Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, and Microsoft are using the rule to make sure that at least one woman or underrepresented minority is interviewed for a position. Could help bring in a more diverse applicant pool, but companies shouldn’t get it twisted. It’s not just about getting people interviews. The issue runs much deeper. #UnconsciousBias  

How to Not See Results …

Investor and serial entrepreneur John Greathouse thought he was giving sound advice to women in tech when he advised that they ‘create an online presence that obscures their gender’ (e.g., use your initials for  job apps or when seeking startup funding). Greathouse said women should create a ‘neutral online presence’ to avoid gender-bias.  Studies apparently show that men are less likely to find female names likeable. Greathouse learned very quickly what happens when a good deed goes wrong. Many women and some men were not having it, and immediately responded with comments, posts, blogs, etc. See here, here, and here. Moral of the story: Not a great idea to suggest workarounds a problem without making suggestions to solve the actual problem. Greathouse has since apologized. We gotta ask: Despite the backlash, does Greathouse have a point until the larger problems are fixed? Sound off in the comments!


Who Run The World?

Melinda Gates wants girls to run the tech world. She’s now turning her attention to the lack of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math). Gates, who earned a computer science degree from Duke and previously worked at Microsoft for a decade, is concerned that the percentage of women in computer science has plummeted from 37 percent to 18 percent since the ‘80s. Her plan is to assess the problem before deciding where resources should go to bring solutions. #StrengthInNumbers  

Switching Gears …

First India and now Germany.  If you’ll remember, people were not happy when WhatsApp announced that it would start sharing its users’ data with Facebook. German regulators just threw a flag on WhatsApp’s play. They say German users didn’t give the go ahead on any of it, which violates its data protection laws. The regulators want Facebook to stop collecting WhatsApp data and to hit the delete on all German users’ data collected already. Facebook plans to fight Germany on this. The company probably keep its defenses up because Italy is giving the company major side-eye on the same issue. 


Looks like folks aren’t sold yet on self-driving cars. New Kelley Blue Book survey found that 80% of survey participants said we should “always have the option to drive themselves;” 64% need to be in control of their own vehicle; and 62% just enjoy driving.


Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft have partnered up to make moves on artificial intelligence and come up with best practices for it. #TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork 

Salesforce just threw a wrench into Microsoft’s plan to buy LinkedIn. The company is asking European regulators to put the kibosh on the deal. Something about the deal will be a threat t’o future innovation and competition.’

Snap, Inc. formerly known as Snapchat is out with its ‘Snapchat Spectacles’ complete with a wearable camera. They’re going for US $130. Add that to your holiday gifts list. 


Loads of content plus a social platform could equal a potential Disney acquisition of Twitter. The social media platform lost a controversial user. Venture capital investor Marc Andreessen decided to call it quits on the Twitterverse. He’s apparently feeling ‘free as a bird.’ #PunIntended 

Music streaming service Spotify has also got buying on its brain. Soundcloud could be it’s next target. If it works out, it’s music to Soundcloud’s ear since the company’s been struggling and looking for a way to exit stage left. Meanwhile, Spotify’s finally saying hello to Japan, the world’s second largest music market (worth over US $2.5 billion). #BetterLateThanNever 

Queen B (aka Beyonce) just made her first foray into tech with a US $150,000 investment in Sidestep, an app for buying concert ‘merch’ that also helps you head straight to the counter to pick up your new swag. 

What Was Trending This Week … 

Mary J. Blige can add host to her resume. Mary’s hosting ‘The 411’ on Beats 1. This week, she interviewed Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton then the R&B singer sang to Hillz about police brutality. We’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but check out the full interview here. Happy Friday!


Virtual Skinny: Anything Is Possible


Good to Know: Anything is possible on the Internet! Stay-at-home mom Candace Payne just wanted to have a little fun and prove that she was the proud owner of an electronic Chewbacca mask. She posted a Facebook Live video wearing the mask, and the rest is history. In no time, her video racked up over 141 million views making it the most watched video via the feature. She’s landed guest spots on late night talk shows and paid a visit to the Zuck at FB HQ.



When Something Is No Longer A Thing …

Car ownership may likely become a thing of the past.  Thanks to tech companies, it’s becoming easier and cheaper to get from Point A to Point B without owning a car.  Automakers can’t beat tech companies so they’re joining them.

When You Need to Get On Board … 

Toyota and Volkswagen are the latest automakers to say “we want in” when it comes to how tech is disrupting the auto industry. While Toyota is teaming up with U.S. ride hailing service Uber, Volkswagen is partnering with European app Gett. Both automakers have invested heavily in each service and are trying to figure out how they’ll continue to grow in this new world of ride-hailing and self-driving cars.

When You Have A Bit More Time …

The future of auto is all about “mobility services” aka car-sharing and ride-sharing.  Industry analysts say we’re not quite there yet.  But in the meantime, Toyota wants to be all in on mobility (e.g., Toyota’s planning to create in-cars for Uber drivers). Volkswagen is trailing behind Toyota as it deals with its emission-cheating scandal, but the German automaker plans to release what it’s calling “Strategy 2025,” a plan for its mobility efforts, this summer.



Keeping It As Local as possible…

Ever tried to access content online only to get hit with the “this video is not available in your country” message? The formal term for that message is called “geo-blocking.” And, the European Union (EU) has had enough of it and other barriers to online shopping across its 28 Member States.  So, it’s come up with a new proposal for the Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes of the world: Get more European content up on your services. At least 20 percent of each catalog to be exact. This is all according to a proposal put out by the EU this week.  Only problem is Netflix and a European tech industry group DigitalEurope say that setting a quota for European content production won’t help protect local content. But instead, could hurt biz models. Meanwhile, European screenwriters and authors want even higher quotas. In a nutshell, no one is happy with the idea.

ICYMI: Peer-To-Peer (Money) Petty 

Is peer-to peer money transfer app making its users petty? Check out our post on this from earlier this week, and share your Venmo petty story in the comments!


Is investor Peter Thiel for free press or not? Word on the street is that Thiel (on the low) bankrolled Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against media company Gawker. Hogan beat Gawker and was awarded US $140 million in damages. Thiel has history with Gawker. The company publicly outed Thiel in a piece called “Peter Thiel is Totally Gay, People.” We’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Twitter is planning to ditch its 140-character word limit. Also, tagging people in replies, adding pics, GIFS, or video won’t count towards the tweet limit. Times are ah-changing …

French investigators paid a visit to Google’s Paris office over tax payments. France is claiming the Google machine owes it 1.6 billion euros (US $1.79 billion) in back taxes.

The level of FitBit’s accuracy depends on who you ask. Studies have shown mixed results in whether the wearable devices are accurate in tracking users’ activity.

The Virtual Skinny: The Swing of Things…


Good to Know: ICYMI, yesterday Google featured Hedy Lamarr who is more known for her acting chops back in the day than being the designer of a communication system during World War II that set the groundwork for modern Wi-fi. 


When Tragedy Strikes …

Freelance journalist Zak Stone published a seriously tragic and heart-wrenching story about how his dad died while staying at an AirBnB rental during a family trip.  The incident happened about two years ago but now he’s letting everyone know how a major safety hazard on the AirBnB property took his dad’s life.

Now What?

His family’s story adds fuel to the ongoing debate about sharing economy services and their consumers’ safety. In AirBnB’s case, questions are being raised about the company’s responsibilities regarding safety.  The site offers safety pointers to hosts under the “Trust” section of its site.  The company also suggests to hosts that getting renter’s or homeowner’s insurance is probably a good idea.  The insurance issue a huge deal.


Well, the problem is a lot of home owner’s insurance policies out there don’t include commercial activity like AirBnBs.  So basically, people can get the insurance, but it still wouldn’t cover their AirBnB rental.  To fix that issue, the company began offering Host Protection Insurance for up to $1 million earlier this year.

What to Do?

AirBnB and other sharing economy companies are working to put more safety measures in place.  But, Zak notes that AirBnB is still not held to same standards as hotels (which is a huge point of contention between AirBnB and regular hotels).  Sharing economy companies say that users’ reviews will weed out all the bad folks in their system, but consumer advocates want more than that.  The struggle continues between balancing the benefits of these services with issues like safety.

In the Meantime … 

Here’s Zak’s post in full but please proceed with caution.


Not Many Things In Life Are Free … 

Google is giving away its machine learning software TensorFlow.  In normal people speak, TensorFlow is software the company uses to make computers “smarter” (e.g., teaching a computer to recognize cats by saturating its computer network with millions of cat images courtesy of YouTube).  No, this doesn’t mean Google is going to kill its own business.  The search company wants people to spend time with the software, come up with new ways to use the thing, and also hopefully improve the software.  If you’ve got what it takes, then by all means, have at it!

When People Are Playing Games … 

Immigration is a major issue in the United States (U.S.) and will continue to rage with upcoming presidential elections next year.  The tech industry has been pretty vocal about the need for more H-1B visas, three-year work permits for foreign-born professionals to legally work in the U.S. With each passing year, the demand for these visas (only 85k available in total) are only going up.  The demand is so high that the U.S. government had to put in place a lottery so regardless of whether people are qualified or not, their chances to legally stay in the U.S. to earn a living comes down to the luck of the draw. French born software engineer Théo Négri thought he had a promising career in San Francisco. But, that dream was cut short after he didn’t make it through the lottery. Négri later found out through data analysis that large global outsourcing companies are “gaming” the system by submitting thousands of applications and clogging up the system, leaving American companies with fewer chances of locking down a visa for their foreign-born applicants. Things definitely need to change.

The Clock Is Ticking …

A Belgian court wants Facebook to stop tracking people who aren’t users of its site.  For the past five years, whenever an Internet user visits FB, a cookie (aka a file that tracks when someone visits a site and also certain online activities) is instantly triggered. This applies to non-FB users, which the court doesn’t think is right.  The court says FB can only track people who directly give their consent; otherwise, the company will be fined 250,000 euros (£180,000) daily.  The court gave FB two days to come into compliance, but the social networking is putting up a fight and plans to appeal the decision.


U.S. President Barack Obama got a Facebook for the country’s top position.  His first post is about climate change.

Facebook Messenger is relying on facial recognition technology for its new Photo Magic feature.  Photo Magic can i.d. your friends in photos and then asks if you want to send it to them or not.  Photo Magic makes its first debut “Down Under.”

Match Group, Inc., parent company of many dating sites and apps that we know, is looking to get in the money. The company is looking at a $3.4 billion IPO and wants to raise $536.7 million to get there.

Tag Heuer Connected is Android’s answer to Apple Watch. You can get yourself one of these bad boys for $1500.

Indian e-commerce company Flipkart partnered with Google to revamp its new mobile website. One point for Google! It’s a good way to get new Internet users from emerging markets, especially since most of them live in India and will be accessing the web via mobile phones.

Social platform Twitter is looking to diversify its Board of Directors.

Some execs recently peaced out on Yahoo so its CEO Marissa Mayer came up with an idea. Mayer wants the remaining execs to sign a pledge saying they’ll stay on with the company for three to five years.  Interesting.

Apple’s 12-inch iPad Pro hit stores tomorrow.